H.R. 1745 — the so-called “JOBS Act” that would take away unemployment insurance benefits from jobless women and men and not create jobs — was expected to come to the House floor this week. But late last week, Politico reported that House Republican leaders pulled H.R. 1745 from the floor schedule, leaving it unclear when — or if — the House will vote on the bill.
This is a small bit of good news for millions of women and families who rely on federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to stay afloat in a sluggish recovery that is especially weak for women. As we explained earlier this month, H.R. 1745 would give states free rein to cut or even eliminate federal UI benefits, which help support workers unable to find jobs after they exhaust their regular state benefits (typically after six months). Congress extended federal benefits through 2011 as part of last December’s tax-cut compromise, in which Republican congressional leaders insisted on extending — and expanding — tax cuts for the very wealthy as the price for extending emergency UI benefits and tax cuts for middle- and lower-income Americans. H.R. 1745 would betray that agreement by allowing states to use the federal funds intended to pay workers’ benefits for other purposes, such as bailouts for states that have mismanaged their UI trust funds and tax cuts for employers.
Pleased as we were to read the Politico story, it’s disappointing that the dire potential consequences of H.R. 1745 seem to have been lost on reporters Jake Sherman and Richard Cohen, who described the bill as “the GOP plan to tweak unemployment insurance.” A more apt description would be “the GOP plan to steal unemployment insurance” from long-term unemployed women who are entitled to it — a group that has grown larger since the recovery officially began in July 2009. As of last month, more than 2.4 million unemployed women had been searching for a job for six months or more, representing 45 percent of all unemployed women age 20 and older — far more than the 32 percent of female job seekers who were unemployed long-term at the start of the recovery. And older women face particularly bleak prospects; as of April 2011, over 57 percent of jobless women ages 55 to 64, and 52 percent of jobless women 65 and older, had been looking for work for six months or more.
With unemployment at 9 percent last month, emergency UI benefits are still essential to help jobless workers, their families, and their communities — and to strengthen the still-fragile recovery. In previous recessions, Congress has never terminated the emergency UI program when unemployment was higher than 7.2 percent. Let’s hope the phony “JOBS Act” stays off the House agenda for good.